Karine Elharrar, Israel’s energy and water resources minister, was denied admittance to the Cop26 summit because as a wheelchair user she was unable to access the Glasgow venue location, blasting the refusal to accommodate her as “outrageous”.
Elharrar, who has muscular dystrophy, waited for two hours outside after organizers refused to let her into the property in the vehicle in which she had come, she said.
Her office stated she was eventually offered a shuttle vehicle to the summit area, but the van was not wheelchair-accessible, forcing her to return to her accommodation in Edinburgh.
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Elharrar remarked on Twitter: “I came to Cop26 to connect with my peers throughout the world and promote a common struggle in the climate issue. It is disappointing that the UN, which supports accessible for people with disabilities, in 2021, does not give accessibility to its events.”
She told Ynet News that despite the Israeli delegation’s best attempts to persuade security to let her in, organizers blocked all routes leading to the conference and left her out.
She explained that she couldn’t get there without a car and that she couldn’t walk the distance on her own. There is no excuse for this type of behavior. Unfortunately, I came with specific objectives that I was unable to complete today, but there will be more chances in the future.
An official in Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett’s team said they had formally complained to organizers. Bennett reportedly claimed Elharrar’s vehicle would arrive at the peak area on Tuesday as part of his official convoy, thus assuring her admission.
The UK environment secretary, George Eustice, said: “We bitterly regret that incident.” He stated there appeared to have been a miscommunication and organizers had not been aware of Elharrar’s requirements in advance and so had not made the proper facilities at the particular entry she was coming to.
“I am disappointed and angry that minister @KElharrar could not access Cop today,” Foreign Office minister James Cleverly tweeted. “Accessibility has been a priority when designing the Cop venue. This has been brought up in conversation with the minister, and I intend to meet with her tomorrow.”
He told Israel’s Channel 12 news that the only way he could get into the airport was to walk for nearly a kilometer or to take an inaccessible shuttle.